It’s been a few years since Craig Gaulzetti of Gaulzetti Cicli has graced the halls of the North American Handmade Bike Show and, boy howdy, has his energy been missed. Since we saw him last, Mr. Gaulzetti has been laying the groundwork for his resurgence in carbon. The fruit of this labor? The Aerotack, Gaulzetti Cicli’s contribution to the custom carbon arms race. “All the aerodynamics and weight savings you’ll find on Froome’s Pinarello or Sagan’s Specialized are there – but the frame is handbuilt, made to measure, and utilizes a carbon lay-up distinct to the power output, weight, riding styles, and desired ride characteristics of the athlete.”
BIKERUMOR: What are you bringing to NAHBS this year that you’re excited about?
GAULZETTI: We’re bringing an Aerotack, Interclub, and possibly a Mustang Shelby GT500 race car.
The Aerotack is the result of a three year project to address what we felt were shortcomings in modern ProTour bicycle design. Traditionally race bikes haven’t needed to mimic commodities as long as they advertised them. With a few notable exceptions like, I don’t know Ti/Raleigh – the frame builder was generally a low level team sponsor who supplied equipment for free if the team was lucky and the director had a good relationship with the ex-blacksmith-made-good who paid for the flux and the pipes. American money, the increasing quality of production bikes, coupled with the ubiquitousness of affordable carbon fiber killed this old European equation sometime after I hung up my cleats. A lot was gained – the bikes got lighter, the bikes got stiffer, the bikes got more aerodynamic and they became not only bigger billboards for the commodity they were shilling but the actual commodity itself. We, the consumer, ended up with far better bikes available for us to buy at the local bike shop.
The men and women making their living riding the things got better bikes too, but certain benefits of the old system were lost. Pro bike racers, with few exceptions, now ride bikes built for consumers. It’s analogous to Bernie Eccelstein declaring in 1995 that Formula One would hence forth have equipment limited to cars available for sale at Freedom Dodge and Bob Brest Chevrolet and maybe for a smaller team with less money – Beverly Hills Ferrari and Porsche of Greenwich. (I completely made up those auto dealerships save one.) Race bikes were no longer uncompromising sporting goods built specifically for the morphological, biomechanical, and psychological demands of the the athletes.
The Gaulzetti project has always been predicated on the “what if?” proposition that imagines a racing bike removed from the social totality of commodification and over determined markets in our sport. It’s my vain, pseudo intellectual bullshit attempt to climb out of Adorno’s box AND build a bike I want to ride.
The Aerotack incorporates the lessons learned developing the bikes that we see on the podiums of professional races. All the aerodynamics and weight savings you’ll find on Froome’s Pinarello or Sagan’s Specialized are there – but the frame is handbuilt, made to measure, and utilizes a carbon lay-up distinct to the power output, weight, riding styles, and desired ride characteristics of the athlete. The point is to design a sporting good free of compromise both perceived and actual. This can involve something as arbitrary as matching a client’s favorite color or desired headset spacer stack– or something as important as how the bike drives into a corner at 40km/h at the end of a 200km slog.
The Interclub is our benchmark for perfection. It’s an aluminum race bike that is designed to be stiff, balanced, and fast. It’s heavier and less immune to turbulence and drag than the Aerotack, but it’s 99% the race bike the Aerotack is and has a feel that is very distinct. In my opinion, it’s the perfect race bike for most riders. In fact, we’re sending a young racer to Holland this summer to race on one.
BIKERUMOR: What are your current challenges in adopting and implementing new standards?
GAULZETTI: I’m agnostic when it comes to most of this stuff. I’m happy to build a bike around whatever standards or options work. Flat mount disc brakes are great, clearance for wider tires is great, as long as the standard does not impede the bicycle’s ability to help our athlete’s perform– we’ll use our resources to figure out a way to offer the options and standards that make sense.
BIKERUMOR: What new or upcoming standards are you excited about?
GAULZETTI: I’m not really excited about any of them. I think flat mount is challenging to get right when you’re dealing with metal bikes. The required tolerances generally fall outside what material science, welding standards, and those who’ve been doing this shit forever, think you can nail repeatedly. But it’s slick and I’m not the one who is going to drive industry standards – so we try to figure out a way to best work within them. I’m psyched to see all the creative solutions those folks working with metal are producing.
It’s a bit outside what we do at Gaulzetti, but I’m loving the 27.5+ standard for mountain bikes. Those bikes are just so much fun. I’m into exploring new ways to better the equipment used in our sport – but I still believe big/big gears work best, a road bike used for racing needs a front derailleur – and tubular tires on a nice set of aero wheels that don’t rub the brake pads under hard changes in tempo are more important than the frame as long as the bike drives right and fits.
BIKERUMOR: What type of bike have your customers requested most in the past 12 months?
GAULZETTI: People want the Aerotack and, surprisingly, most are opting for direct mount calipers in lieu of flat mount discs. Don’t really know why. I think the added weight and complexity of disc brakes is still holding most of my clients back from committing to disc brakes. Direct mount calipers work great with internal cabling, they give you more tire clearance than a standard dual pivot caliper, and they’re easy to live with and work on. Still – I don’t think they’ll exist in ten years outside of being a repair part. Disc brakes are only going to get lighter, more powerful, and better performing and the they’re going to allow frame builders and wheel manufacturers greater opportunity to further improve things.
BIKERUMOR: What is the next bike you’re building for yourself?
GAULZETTI: I’m building myself an aluminum Omnidrome to play with on our velodrome. It should be fun. We’ve got a good track community out here in San Diego and we’d love to build more bikes for track racers.
BIKERUMOR: …and if someone else were building your next bike for you, which builder (of all time) would you choose and why? What would it be?
GAULZETTI: Of all time? That is a tough one. Honestly, the best bike I ever rode was my Colnago C50. It was a custom bike that while I didn’t know it at the time, signified the last of its kind. It was a handmade custom race bike – more advanced than anything else in the world – built in a big Italian factory, and designed first and foremost to appease a brilliant elderly peasant’s ego and go and win races. The guy who built it was probably a fat dude who punched a clock everyday, enjoyed the benefits of broken Italian social democracy, and didn’t really give a fuck about my bike. But I don’t want that guy building my next bike anymore than I want to re-read Infinite Jest when there are plenty of new books to read. It’s like an old newspaper or rap song – I’m sure they’re useful to academics and folks interested in nostalgia – but the good, important, relevant stuff is happening right here and now. I want to hear the new ASAP Ferg song, read today’s New York Times so I know what is going on, and get a right now bike. Ten years ago I would have said I want a new Walser, a Crumpton, or a Sachs. Today I want a new Walser, a Crumpton, or a Sachs.
BIKERUMOR: What is your “blank check” bike?
GAULZETTI: It’s the bikes we’re showing at NAHBS – an Interclub with Campagnolo Record EPS and 80mm Lightweight Fernweg Tubulars and my Aerotack which has my favorite stuff in the world on it. Campagnolo Super Record EPS, Bora Ultra Tubulars and a Deda 35 cockpit and ProLogo saddle.
BIKERUMOR: If you could exist in another period of framebuilding, what would it be and why?
GAULZETTI: Right now. I’ve got a pretty special time and place to experience right now, I’ve got my shop open here in Del Mar California with my business partner and best mechanic in the world, Jeff Huckleberry. I can build the best race bike I’ve ever ridden. I have the support and partnership of the best frame builders in world at Seven Cyles and Dario Pegoretti as friends, confidants, mentors and suppliers and I never have to shovel fucking snow again. Shame about the moron giving fascists a bad name in the White House, the increasing chauvinism and hate both within the bicycle industry and my country at large – but selfishly in terms of building race bikes. I’m in an okay place.
BIKERUMOR: If you had to stop building in your current material, what new material would you choose and why?
GAULZETTI: I build bikes out of steel, aluminum, and carbon fiber and I’m not ever going to be able compete with the likes of Seven Cycles when it comes to titanium. I’d have better luck challenging Stephen Hawkins on unifying quantum theory and general relativity or challenging Floyd Mayweather to a fist fight. So magnesium – yeah. We’ll bring back magnesium. I love putting out fires with sand anyway. Really any material but wood.
BIKERUMOR: If your shop was burning down, what one or two tools would you grab to save? Why would you save them?
GAULZETTI: Jeff and I can replace a TIG welder or a set of Snap-On ratchets easy enough. We’ve already had a bunch of tools and bikes ripped off from my garage before our shop was even open. So I’m going to say our EVT work stand. It weighs more than I do (only because I haven’t had any beer or booze in month and a half) but it’s really the best thing ever for a couple of shop rats wasting their children’s inheritance building and selling handbuilt custom bikes. I should also probably grab that SCT Tuner thing that has all the tunes for the Shelby GT500 race car I didn’t ever bother to talk about during this interview.
The North American Handmade Bike Show will take place from February 16th to 18th in Hartford, CT. For more information, visit the NAHBS website.